The Great Famine of 1845-’51 was caused when blight destroyed the country’s potato crops on which the vast majority of the people depended for their food. In the famine years, Ireland’s population fell from eight million to six million. Half of that number emigrated, the other half died of starvation and disease.
The Government‘s response to the calamity was minuscule compared to what was required to save the population. Local responses were equally limited although there were notable instances of efforts to both feed the poor and to provide employment.
The lowering of Cork Hill and the building of ‘The Range Wall’ was conceived as one such employment project for the benefit of poor labourers. It was also seen as being beneficial to the wider population because it lowered the road, thereby making it easier for both horses and pedestrians to use.
Between 1841and 1851 the population of Fermoy fell from 7,513 to 6,731, but this latter figure includes 2,682 ‘paupers’ in the local workhouse most of whom had come from outside Fermoy and were not resident locally before 1845.